Circulating libraries and video rental stores

Richard Roehl, Hal R. Varian


We describe a number of interesting parallels between circulating libraries in England circa 1725-1850 and video rental stores in the United States circa 1980-1990. Both institutions evolved in a similar manner, which suggests that common economic and social forces were at work. Perhaps the histories of these two industries may be helpful in understanding current and future developments in computer- and Internet-related media.

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